of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton
Secretary of the Army Thomas White
Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
Senator John Warner (R-Va.)
September 11, 2001
6:42 P.M. EDT
RUMSFELD: This is a -- first of all, good evening. This is a tragic day for
our country. Our hearts and prayers go to the injured, their families and friends.
We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine
who is responsible. We're making every effort to take care of the injured and
the casualties in the building. I'm deeply grateful for the many volunteers
from the defense establishment and from the excellent units from all throughout
this region. They have our deep appreciation.
We have been working closely throughout the day with President Bush, Vice
President Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet, the vice chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Dick Myers, who is currently participating in a meeting elsewhere
in the building, and a great many other officials from throughout the government.
I should say we've received calls from across the world offering their sympathy
and indeed their assistance in various ways.
I'm very pleased to be joined here by Chairman Carl Levin and Senator John
Warner. Senator Warner called earlier today and offered his support and was
kind enough to come down and has been with us. We've very recently had a discussion
with the president of the United States. Chairman Hugh Shelton has just landed
from Europe. Secretary of the Army Tom White, who has a responsibility for
incidents like this as executive agent for the Department of Defense, is also
It's an indication that the United States government is functioning in the
face of this terrible act against our country. I should add that the briefing
here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon's functioning. It will
be in business tomorrow.
I know the interest in casualty figures, and all I can say is it's not possible
to have solid casualty figures at this time. And the various components are
doing roster checks, and we'll have information at some point in the future.
And as quickly as it's possible to have it, it will certainly be made available
to each of you.
I'll be happy to take a few questions after asking first General Shelton
if he would like to say anything, and then we will allow the others to make
a remark or two.
SHELTON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Ladies and gentlemen, as the secretary
just said, today, we have watched the tragedy of an outrageous act of barbaric
terrorism carried out by fanatics against both civilians and military people,
acts that have killed and maimed many innocent and decent citizens of our
I extend my condolences to the entire Department of Defense families, military
and civilian, and to the families of all those throughout our nation who lost
I think this is indeed a reminder of the tragedy and the tragic dangers that
we face day in and day out both here at that home as well as abroad.
I will tell you up front, I have no intentions of discussing today what comes
next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.
WARNER: The chairman.
RUMSFELD: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin.
LEVIN: Our intense focus on recovery and helping the injured and the families
of those who were killed is matched only by our determination to prevent more
attacks and matched only by our unity to track down, root out and relentlessly
pursue terrorists, states that support them and harbor them.
They are the common enemy of the civilized world. Our institutions are strong,
and our unity is palpable.
Senator John Warner.
WARNER: Thank you.
As a past chairman, preceding Carl Levin, I can assure you that the Congress
stands behind our president, and the president speaks with one voice for this
entire nation. This is indeed the most tragic hour in America's history, and
yet I think it can be its finest hour, as our president and those with him,
most notably our secretary of Defense, our chairman, and the men and women
of the armed forces all over this world stand ready not only to defend this
nation and our allies against further attack, but to take such actions as
are directed in the future in retaliation for this terrorist act -- a series
of terrorist acts, unprecedented in world history.
We call upon the entire world to step up and help, because terrorism is a
common enemy to all, and we're in this together. The United States has borne
the brunt, but who can be next? Step forward and let us hold accountable and
punish those that have perpetrated this attack.
Again, I commend the secretary, the chairman, and how proud we are. We spoke
with our President here moments ago. He's got a firm grip on this situation,
and the Secretary and the General have a firm grip on our armed forces and
in communication the world over.
RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
We'll take a few questions and then we'll adjourn.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you have any inkling at all, in any way, that something
of this nature and something of this scope might be planned?
RUMSFELD: Charlie, we don't discuss intelligence matters.
QUESTION: I see. And how -- how would you respond if you find out who did this?
RUMSFELD: Obviously, the president of the United States has spoken on that
subject, and those are issues that he will address in good time.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we are getting reports from CNN and others that there are
bombs exploding in Kabul, Afghanistan. Are we, at the moment, striking back?
And if so, is the target Osama bin Laden and his organization?
RUMSFELD: I've seen those reports. They -- in no way is the United States
government connected to those explosions.
QUESTION: What about Osama bin Laden, do you suspect him as the prime suspect in
RUMSFELD: It's not the time for discussions like that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said you could not be specific about casualties. Can
you give us some characterization, whether it's dozens, hundreds in the building?
RUMSFELD: Well, we know there were large numbers, many dozens, in the aircraft
that flew at full power, steering directly into the -- between, I think, the
first and second floor of the -- opposite the helipad. You've seen it. There
cannot be any survivors; it just would be beyond comprehension.
There are a number of people that they've not identified by name, but identified
as being dead, and there are a number of causalities. But the FBI has secured
the site. And the -- information takes time to come. People have been lifted
out and taken away in ambulances. And the numbers will be calculated, and
it will not be a few.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you tell us what you saw?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you consider what happened today, both in New York and
here, an act of war?
RUMSFELD: There is no question but that the attack against the United States
of America today was a vicious, well-coordinated, massive attack against the
United States of America. What words the lawyers will use to characterize
it is for them.
QUESTION: Does that mean that the U.S. is at war then?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that the Pentagon would be open for business tomorrow.
What kind of assurances can you give the people who work here at the building
that the building will be safe?
RUMSFELD: A terrorist can attack at any time at any place using any technique.
It is physically impossible to defend at every time in every place against
every technique. It is not possible to give guarantees. The people who work
in this building do so voluntarily. They're brave people, and they do their
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you give a sense of what happened -- what did you see
when you left your office, ran down to the site and apparently helped people
on stretchers and then returned to the command center?
RUMSFELD: The -- I felt the shock of the airplane hitting the building, went
through the building and then out into the area, and they were bringing bodies
out that had been injured, most of which were alive and moving, but seriously
injured. And a lot of volunteers were doing a terrific job helping to bring
them out of the buildings and get them into stretchers and into ambulances
and into airlifts.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us how many of the dead were soldiers and
how many were civilians? Have you been able to determine that?
RUMSFELD: Absolutely not.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, today we saw military planes both in New York and in Washington.
How much more of a military presence will we see, now that this incident has
occurred, for the next week?
RUMSFELD: Those kinds of decisions are made day to day. It is correct that
we had aircraft flying protective missions at various places in the United
States today. And they will do that as appropriate.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
QUESTION: -- what do you say to the American people who may have questions on how
something so coordinated has been carried out against this nation? What do
you say to them who might not have confidence that our intelligence and security
are what they should have been?
RUMSFELD: I say to them that the president of the United States will be making
some remarks to them this evening that will address those subjects.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've declared -- the Pentagon has declared Threatcon
Delta for forces around the world. Could you tell me why? Have you received
any threats? Or has anyone claimed credit for this?
RUMSFELD: We have in fact declared Force Protection Condition Delta and a
condition of high alert -- indeed, the highest alert. We did so almost immediately
upon the attacks, and it is still in force.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, were there threats issued against other U.S. facilities
elsewhere in the world today?
RUMSFELD: The -- I don't know that there's a day that's gone by since I've
been in this job that there haven't been threats somewhere in the world to
some facility somewhere. It's a -- it's one of the complexities of the intelligence
business that you have to sort through those kinds of things. But we don't
get into the specifics.
Yes? You had your hand up? Yes?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there were rumors earlier in the day that the plane which
crashed in Pennsylvania had been brought down by the United States, either
shot down or in some other manner.
RUMSFELD: We have absolutely no information that any U.S. aircraft shot down
any other aircraft today.
QUESTION: I wonder if we could just ask Senator Levin one thing, Senator, if that's
LEVIN: You bet.
RUMSFELD: Senator Levin, you and other Democrats in Congress have voiced
fear that you simply don't have enough money for the large increase in defense
that the Pentagon is seeking, especially for missile defense, and you fear
that you'll have to dip into the Social Security funds to pay for it. Does
this sort of thing convince you that an emergency exists in this country to
increase defense spending, to dip into Social Security, if necessary, to pay
for defense spending -- increase defense spending?
LEVIN: One thing where the committee was unanimous on, among many, many other
things, was that the -- we authorized the full request of the President, including
the $18 billion. So I would say that Democrats and Republicans have seen the
need for the request.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you describe what steps are being taken -- defensive
measures -- beyond force protection, and whether there's been any operational
planning for homeland defense and as to --
RUMSFELD: Those aren't the kinds of things that one discusses.
QUESTION: Sir, the perpetrators of the Khobar Towers bombing were never found --
the Cole bombing as well. What assurances or what confidence do you have that
the perpetrators of this act will be found?
RUMSFELD: All one can offer by way of assurance is a seriousness of purpose.
We're still taking bodies out of this building, so I would say that that's
a little premature.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: You've talked about -- and others at the podium have talked about being
ready, the military is ready, General Shelton said. And we understand the
Navy has dispatched two carriers and some guided-missile cruisers and destroyers
and a couple of Marine Corps helicopter amphibious ships, such as the Bataan
-- it's not the Bataan -- here and to New York. Can you tell us if that's
true? And also any other things you can share with us about how the United
States military is preparing to take on whatever in the next few days?
RUMSFELD: We don't make announcements about ship deployments.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: Can you describe the fire-fighting efforts that are going on right now
in that corridor and the search-and-rescue efforts that are beginning?
RUMSFELD: Can I describe them?
RUMSFELD: Why don't we let the Secretary of the Army, who was out there with
me a few minutes ago and has been talking to the incident commander on the
WHITE: I think it's fair to say at this point that the fire is contained,
and will shortly, if not already, be sufficiently controlled to allow entry
into the building. That entry will be supervised by the FBI, who are in charge
of the site, assisted by the fire departments that are present. We, on the
Army side, will support them as they go in the building and search for casualties
and bring them out, then we will support them in dealing with that. That's
what's going on on the ground.
RUMSFELD: We'll take one last question.
QUESTION: Is the government operating under the assumption that this attack is done,
or is it poised or bracing for more action?
RUMSFELD: The government is certainly aware that it's difficult to know when
attacks are concluded.
And I want to thank Senator -- Chairman Levin and Senator Warner, and certainly
Secretary of the Army White and General Shelton for being here with me. And
we'll excuse ourselves. Thank you.